Right in the center of a city that prides itself on being a little off-center, Long Beach’s Dark Art Emporium is offering new levels of weirdness. With a wide variety of grim (and sometimes funny) paintings, taxidermied animals, skulls and other bizarre and creepy oddities, owner Jeremy Schott is proud to bring to the LBC the lowbrow culture that’s generally only found in a few specific locations around L.A.
“I’ve lived in Long Beach for like 15 years, and I was always driving up to L.A. and up to Hollywood to go to the oddities shops and art galleries,” Schott says as he puts the price stickers on the bottom of a handful of dead bugs suspended in glass, one of his standard upkeep tasks for a slow weekday afternoon. “I know there are other people down south who don’t want to make that drive all the time. It’s an hour if you’re lucky, and it can be two hours. I’m new to all of this — I’ve never done anything like this before in my life — but my thinking was that there’s got to be like-minded people down here.”
For that matter, aside from a couple of smaller options and kitschier oddity shops around Los Angeles, there aren’t too many full-time dark-art galleries even within an easy drive of Long Beach. Rather than being able to hop on the Blue Line that connects the area to many of L.A.’s cultural attractions, Schott says his favorite spot required a trek all the way up to Burbank anytime he was feeling creepy.
“I was always going up to Burbank to go to Hyaena Gallery, and I became buddies with Bill [Shafer] who runs Hyaena Gallery,” Schott says. “I mentioned to him that I wanted to do what he was doing, and he said, ‘Don’t. It’s dumb.’ I told him I was going to do it anyway, so he kind of showed me the ropes.”
Before opening up the Dark Art Emporium a little less than a year ago, Schott was a touring cameraman and documentarian for rock bands. Upon hitting his mid-30s and realizing he didn’t want to be on the road anymore, the lowbrow-art aficionado opened a smaller version of his gallery in the space down the block from his current location at the corner of Third Street and Elm Avenue in downtown Long Beach’s East Village neighborhood. Ever since he first lined his walls with unsavory art, the remnants of the long-dead and other objects that would give the squeamish nightmares, Schott has watched as his spooky collection grew rapidly in both size and following.
“If you like weird shit, this is the place to come,” Schott says. “I’m always going to have a rotating selection of crazy art and crazy oddities — I’m always getting new stuff, so it’s always something new and different. If you need anything from a bobcat skull to some weird art or a human skeleton, this is the place to get it. I’ve been getting a lot of tourists since I’ve been out on this corner, but there’s nothing like this for the local crowd either.”
Beyond housing paintings, sketches, sculptures and oddities, the Dark Art Emporium serves as a gathering point for Long Beach’s proud weirdo scene. On the second Saturday of every month, Schott hosts a gallery opening featuring his favorite local artists (such as this month’s Gay May or June’s display of Jeremy Cross’ work). Pepper in some other weekend events, such as taxidermy classes or upcoming marionette puppet shows, and the small gallery is making some big contributions to a distinctive scene. With the recent closing of other dark-art galleries and oddity shops like the Night Gallery in Santa Ana — which Schott was sad to see go, although he did manage to get a good deal on their old furniture — the importance of and audience for the Dark Art Emporium should only grow in the coming months and years.
“The more art — especially dark art and lowbrow art — in the world, the better, is what I think,” Schott says. “This has been fun for me so far. I’m trying to build a community around it of the freaks and geeks and weirdos who can appreciate all of this off-the-wall stuff.”